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Riding the Social Media Wave

Date Published: 19 May 2009

If you're one of the 1.9 million New Zealanders currently using social media websites, then you'll know how useful these websites can be for staying connected to the people around you, spreading information and building relationships.

As websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn become a part of life for millions of people around the world, businesses are starting to realise the potential these sites have to reach consumers and engage them in conversations.

Tourism New Zealand is already making use of social media platforms in its marketing activity. Chief Executive George Hickton says they offer a cost effective way to reach carefully targeted groups of consumers online.

Pure YouTube

The most high-profile example of Tourism New Zealand's social media activity has been the 'Have Your Say' campaign on YouTube, which saw a mobile recording studio tour the length and breadth of New Zealand during summer.

Over 1,500 video diaries were recorded by travellers and published on a 'Have Your Say' YouTube channel. Videos were viewed a total of 120,000 times and the initiative achieved global publicity as a unique way of promoting a tourism destination.

"Word-of-mouth recommendations are one of the most powerful motivators for people thinking about booking a New Zealand holiday," says George Hickton.

"This project allowed us to capture recommendations from visitors already here in New Zealand and send them out to a global audience in a cost effective way."

He says the initiative was a positive step forward in the use of social media to market New Zealand and built on other initiatives that have been underway for some time.

"In 2007 we launched our new 'Forever Young' 100% Pure New Zealand television commercial by taking over YouTube's global homepage for 24 hours. During that time the television commercial was viewed 600,000 times," he says.

The commercial has now been viewed over one million times and is one of 91 videos available on Tourism New Zealand's YouTube channel.

Joining the conversation

Tourism New Zealand's 100% Pure New Zealand Facebook page was set up in November and now has almost 3,000 fans. 'Fans' of New Zealand can see videos of New Zealand on the page, upload their own photos, add comments or join discussions.

George Hickton says the Facebook page has become a popular way for young people with a passion for New Zealand to connect with each other or learn more about what the country offers as a destination.

"We get about 100 new fans a week on Facebook, so the number of people exposed to messages about New Zealand is growing continually."

Tourism New Zealand also encourages visitors to blog about their holiday experiences on our consumer website, www.newzealand.com, and works with high-profile travel and celebrity bloggers as part of our international media programme.

We also have a Twitter account - @PureNewZealand - which 'tweets' holiday deals and New Zealand news to 3,288 'followers' and answers questions about New Zealand direct from Twitter users.

Catching the Wave

Consumers are using social media more and more to research holiday destinations and seek recommendations from their online networks, and there are real opportunities for operators to participate in these conversations if they are active in social media.

The trick is to 'be helpful' and publish information that people want to read. Remember that online consumers choose to listen to what you have to say, but they can also choose to walk away if they are bombarded with information they don't want or need.

It's important to understand each of the social media platforms before joining conversations - companies should sign up and listen to the kinds of conversations that are taking place before they pipe up and start promoting their products.

There are a vast number of social media websites and they are all different, so choose just a few (depending on where their customers are) and commit to using these platforms well.

Also it is recommended that operators think about their social marketing strategy and have guidelines for staff. As more and more people from all walks of life become active in social media, employees should be aware of what they can and can't say about their work or their employer.

Read about one New Zealand operator who is expanding her business using Twitter.

Tourism New Zealand social networking online

YouTube Channel
Pure New Zealand

Facebook
100% Pure New Zealand Facebook

Twitter
@PureNewZealand